During an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday morning, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that the writers and actors unions going on strike in Hollywood are not being “realistic” with their expectations.
Speaking to CNBC’s David Faber from the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, Iger commented on the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike and imminent decision for SAG-AFTRA to join them.
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“It’s very disturbing to me. We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back. This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption,” Iger said. “I understand any labor organization’s desire to work on behalf of its members to get the most compensation and be compensated fairly based on the value that they deliver. We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the directors guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
It is expected that SAG-AFTRA, the actors union, will go on strike Thursday morning after contract talks concluded late Wednesday night without a resolution. This will effectively halt all scripted film and TV production, much of which had already been delayed due to the ongoing writers strike, which is in its third month. SAG-AFTRA has not gone on strike in over four decades, and the last time both unions were striking concurrently was in 1960.
Iger said that while he respects the right of the unions to “get as much as they possibly can in compensation for their people,” they must “be realistic about the business environment, and what this business can deliver.”
Iger continued, “It will have a very, very damaging affect on the whole business, and unfortunately, there’s huge collateral damage in the industry to people who are supportive services, and I could go on and on. It will affect the economy of different regions, even, because of the sheer size of the business. It’s a shame, it is really a shame.”
Iger’s comments come the day after it was announced that he will remain the CEO of Walt Disney Co. through 2026, instead of stepping down at the end of next year as originally planned.
In a shocking move, Iger returned as Disney CEO in November 2022, less than a year after his initial exit from a 15-year run at the helm. He took over for Bob Chapek, with his intention being to look for a new successor. However, with Disney’s numerous internal issues and the need to reinvent its linear TV model in the streaming age, it was expected within the industry that Iger’s contract would be extended.
In 2022, Iger’s total pay package was $15 million, though Chapek (who was paid $24.5 million) was at the helm for the majority of last year. After Iger took over again, it was revealed that he has the potential to earn up to $27 million in 2023, his first full year as returned CEO.
Speaking of Disney’s linear business, which includes broadcaster ABC as well as cablers Disney Channel and FX, among others, Iger said that it “may not be core to Disney.” When Faber suggested the idea of a sale, Iger said the company will be “open-minded and objective about the future of those businesses.”
“There clearly is content that they create that is core to Disney, but the distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business — and that is delivering great profits over the years — is definitely broken, and we have to call it like it is,” Iger said. “When I came back, one of the things I discovered was that the disruptive forces that have been preying on that business for a while are greater than I thought. It’s eye-opening. There’s a reality to it that we have to come to grips with, and we have to come to grips with it now.”
Iger also addressed presidential hopeful and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attacks on Disney over the company’s opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “The notion that Disney is in any way sexualizing our children quite frankly is preposterous and inaccurate,” Iger said.
In April 2022, DeSantis signed a bill eliminating Disney’s special independent district status in Walt Disney World. A few days later, Disney sued DeSantis for retaliating against the company’s freedom of speech.
Faber also asked Iger about the Neo-Nazi demonstration that occurred outside of Walt Disney World in June. “It was horrifying, quite frankly, and it’s concerning to me that anyone would encourage a level of intolerance or even hate that frankly could even become dangerous action,” Iger said.
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